Claimed For The Sheikh's Shock Son. Carol MarinelliЧитать онлайн книгу.
confirmed the grim news, but said there was much consolation that an heir had been spared. ‘We celebrate that this morning another heir to the Al-Zahan kingdom was born.’
‘So she had a boy and a girl?’ Khalid checked.
‘Did she get to see them?’ Khalid asked. ‘To hold them? Did she know what she had?’
‘Khalid, what sort of question is that? I was not with her.’
That he hadn’t even found out had Khalid fold then, and an agonised breath shuddered out of him that the King heard.
‘There will be no tears,’ the King said sharply. ‘You are a prince, not a princess. The people need to see strength, not their future King acting like some peasant who weeps and keens.’
As Khalid was being reminded he was royal, and so above emotion and pain, Jobe came around the desk and placed his hand on Khalid’s shoulder. Jobe did not know what was being said, for Khalid spoke in Arabic, yet his hand remained, even when the phone call had ended.
‘I’m so sorry, son. You’ll get through this. Abe and Ethan lost their mom too.’
‘They had you, though.’ It was the most honest admission.
‘So do you, Khalid,’ Jobe said, for having himself spoken to Khalid’s icy father he knew the young man would get no true support at home.
Here in this study Khalid had wept for his mother.
For a short while he had been sixteen and flailing, scared and desperately sad, and Jobe had allowed him to be.
Jobe Devereux had been the only person ever to see him cry for, even as a child, tears had been forbidden.
Khalid had been an only child until he’d been a teenager and his brother, Hussain, had been born, lifting from him the full weight of being the only heir. Now there were twins but no mother to love them.
Yes, Khalid had cried.
But by the time the royal plane had arrived the mask had been back on and it had never, to this day, slipped.
He realised that he had not heard Ethan come into the study and turned and offered his condolences to his business partner and friend, although they could never have been considered close.
Khalid was not close to anyone.
‘Thank you for coming, Khalid.’
‘Of course, I was always going to be here for Jobe’s funeral.’
‘I meant tonight. It’s appreciated. How long are you here for?’
‘Till the day after tomorrow.’
‘You have to leave so soon?’
‘I am increasingly needed at home,’ Khalid said.
‘Well, it was good of you to come.’
‘Enough small-talk, Ethan.’ Khalid cut straight to the point. ‘What’s going on?’
‘A lot,’ Ethan admitted. ‘And it cannot get out.’
‘You know it will go no further.’ Khalid was one of the few who could be trusted with bombshell news. He would never gossip—Khalid was far too remote and royal for that—and so Ethan told him what had been revealed since his father’s death.
Jobe Devereux’s life had been interesting, to say the least, and had played out in the press for all to see. His sons, Abe and Ethan, had seen it all.
Or had thought that they had.
‘There was an account we didn’t know about,’ Ethan told him.
Khalid listened as Ethan revealed they had found out that Jobe had had a penchant for gambling and showgirls. As it turned out, those long weekends away that Jobe had frequently taken hadn’t always been spent at the Hamptons; instead they had been taken in Vegas.
‘Are there debts?’ Khalid asked, for he always dealt first with business.
Ethan shook his head. ‘No, he was actually ahead, but this wasn’t an occasional thing, Khalid. There were a lot of women, oh, and a marriage we didn’t know about.’
‘Between his first wife and my mother, it turns out he was married to a woman named Brandy for all of seventy-two hours.’
‘Ancient history,’ Khalid dismissed.
‘Perhaps, but it’s ancient history that might resurface tomorrow.’
‘Jobe’s reputation can handle it.’ Khalid’s words were calm and measured as he poured oil on troubled waters. ‘And so can you. Of course, anything that is recent may prove hard on his current partner.’ Khalid checked his facts. ‘He got back with Chantelle before he died?’
‘Not really.’ Ethan held out his hand in a wavering motion. ‘But they were together on and off for quite a few years.’
‘Ethan,’ Khalid calmly responded. ‘Everyone has a shadow side. And that Jobe kept mistresses, and was married briefly, is hardly going to come as too much of a surprise, surely? Jobe led a colourful life and we all know how much he loved women.’
‘Women, yes,’ Ethan sighed, and Khalid could see his friend’s discomfort and knew he was about to hear the real reason he’d been asked to come by in advance of the funeral. ‘For the last four years my father has been sending a considerable monthly sum to an Aubrey Johnson...’
Now Khalid frowned, for this indeed came as a surprise. ‘Jobe was having an affair with a man?’
And on this dark sombre night Ethan actually laughed. ‘No, Khalid. Jobe wasn’t gay.’
‘But Aubrey is a man’s name.’
‘Not here it isn’t, it’s a unisex name. Believe me, Aubrey Johnson is definitely not a man.’
Ethan handed him some photographs.
No, Aubrey was certainly not a man.
She was barely a woman.
Aubrey Johnson had a curtain of blonde hair and china-blue eyes, but her pretty, delicate features were overwhelmed by elaborate stage make-up, with false eyelashes and painted red lips. Her petite, toned figure was shown to effect in a crimson, sequined leotard.
And nothing else.
‘How old is she?’ Khalid asked, his deep voice hoarse with disappointment.
‘Twenty-two,’ Ethan said. ‘She’ll be twenty-three next month.’
Jobe had been seventy-four.
‘She’s a dancer,’ Ethan said.
‘I’m assuming we’re not talking ballroom...’ Khalid started, and then answered his own question as he looked at the next image. From barely a woman to all woman, she wore a tiny, revealing dress and elaborate make-up and his jaw gritted at her provocative pose.
‘She’s also an aerial trapeze artist, apparently,’ Ethan said as Khalid flicked through the photos of Aubrey. ‘Though not a very good one,’
‘Why do you say she’s not any good?’ Khalid frowned.
‘Well, she’s not a big name or anything. Ms Johnson lives in a trailer park and does a routine over the gaming tables. And when she’s not performing it would seem she’s my father’s...’ Ethan couldn’t finish. ‘She was barely eighteen when the payments started.’
What the hell had Jobe been thinking?
Khalid could not stand to think that the man he had so deeply admired would be involved with someone so young. No, he could